Fayette schools get best-ever rating

Fayette County schools have received the highest marks ever awarded on a Kentucky Scholastic Audit.

The school system received an "exemplary" rating — the highest score possible — on 54 of 88 indicators of educational development and improvement, based on a review in March by a 30-member team from the Kentucky Department of Education.

"This is the highest performance rating of all the district audits that have been conducted by the state," said Wayne Puckett, a former school superintendent who led the team that audited the Fayette district.

Puckett, a former superintendent of the Breckinridge County Schools, presented the audit findings to the Fayette Board of Education at its planning meeting Monday night.

The Fayette schools were last audited in June 2003. Back then, Fayette County was reviewed on 53 indicators and got exemplary scores in five of them.

"This shows remarkable improvement," Superintendent Stu Silberman said Monday. "We want to continue down this same path until we get all kids to proficiency level, and we won't be satisfied until then."

"We still have a long way to go. But this report shows us that we have the right structures in place to make it happen."

Academic audits are conducted in Kentucky school districts with schools that fail to meet goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The latest audit was conducted in early March, when the state review team spent five days conducting almost 300 classroom observations in Fayette County schools. The team also interviewed more than 100 school officials, community representatives and government leaders, and pored over hundreds of district documents.

The team reviewed the district's performance in 88 indicators based on nine standards, including curriculum; classroom evaluation and assessment; instruction; school culture; family and community support; professional growth; and comprehensive planning.

A district receives scores from 1 to 4 on each indicator. A score of 1 indicates little or no development or implementation; a 2 score shows partial development; 3 reflects fully operational development. A score of 4 means an exemplary level of development and implementation.

According to education officials, a score of 3 — fully functioning — is the goal Kentucky school districts shoot for.

In its new audit, Fayette County got scores of 3 on 29 indicators, or 33 percent. It got a score of 4 on 54 of 88 indicators, or 61 percent. Overall, the district received either highest or second-highest scores in 94 percent of the indicators.

On the comprehensive planning standard, for example, Fayette schools ranked exemplary on all 16 indicators for that particular category. It received exemplary scores on 73 percent of indicators for leadership and 70 percent of indicators for school organization and fiscal resources. Fayette schools did get five scores of 2, which reflect only partial implementation.

According to Silberman, four of those low scores involved professional growth plans not being completed for some teachers. That deficiency was corrected the morning after the school district learned about it, he said. The other low score had to do with requirements for certain progress reports. The school board will adopt language fixing that at is next meeting, he said.

Puckett, who has conducted scholastic audits for about four years, said the audit results indicate that Fayette County is positioned to keep improving its students' academic achievement.

"It's evident that what they have in place is working," he said. "Have they fixed everything in every classroom? No. But they are making continuous progress."